So you have a party coming up and you have the idea to invest in a custom cake from a professional or even a hobby baker (like me). Well, the “rules” to make the order process easy for both are the same, no matter whom you go to.
Rule #1: Have a date ready. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? But I have a lot of people who contact me and start with a cake request and a picture, but no indication of the date. If I don’t know the date or approximate date of your party, I don’t even know if I am available or if it is a weekend where I am busy with family. Whatever the reason, I need to know the date FIRST before we can even move on. If we start talking about a cake, but I’m not available, then we have just wasted both of our time.
How far in advance should you contact a cake decorator? That depends. I know I need at least four weeks. Other decorators I know book MONTHS in advance. You can always contact someone in the off chance that they do have an opening, but don’t be disappointed if you wait until two weeks before and he or she isn’t available.
Rule #2: Set a budget. The fact of the matter is, custom cakes take a minimum of six hours in total to put together. That’s a lot of hours! Add in the fresh ingredients, hand-made decorations, semi-homemade fondant, and the price can be over your budget. There are ways to cut costs while still making a beautiful cake that will taste wonderful (they all taste the same, no matter the decoration), but you have to know what you’re willing to pay.
Why? What if we start talking about this wonderful cake, I make you a sketch, and you fall in love. It is just like buying a wedding dress: if you get attached to a dress that is out of your price range, you’re either going to have to pay more than you’d like or move on or lose some of the things that you loved about it. The same goes for a cake.
If you’re wondering, an 8″ cake alone costs at least $65. So you can imagine how it adds up when you add tiers, gumpaste flowers, custom-cut characters, and so on.
Rule #3: Have some ideas, but don’t expect an exact copy. If you’re REALLY vague with what you want in your cake, I will spend a lot of time thinking and trying to come up with an idea before we even have a commitment to buy, which makes me sort of grumpy. Let’s not waste too much time!
If you do a simple Google search, you may find something that you like. But then I will probably counter with my own, similar idea that is something that I feel I can do with the tools that I currently have in my possession. I don’t like to do exact copies of other people’s cakes, and I imagine other cake decorators feel the same way. Plus, it’s hard to make something look EXACTLY like something someone else made.
So the lesson here is: Come with an idea, but expect your own, unique cake in the end.
These are the three main rules that I can come up with at the moment. I’m sure I’ll think of more that I can add to this in the future. But if you know your date, your budget, and have an idea to work off of, you can order yourself a delicious centerpiece for your next event.